Linsley Sees Solid Foundation for 2014 Offensive Line
By Tony Gerdeman
COLUMBUS, Ohio — What happened during the Big Ten Championship Game was a rarity for the Buckeyes, and not just because it was their first loss in two seasons. It also happened to be the first time that one of their starting offensive linemen missed a game in two years. With Marcus Hall sitting the bench for his antics in Ann Arbor, the Buckeyes finally had to turn to a backup to make a start on the offensive line.
Photo by Jim Davidson
It's an amazing feat for a starting offensive line to not lose any starts in a single season, but to go nearly two years is almost unheard of. The consistency and dominance of the Ohio State offensive line has been one of Urban Meyer's favorite topics this season, and it's thanks to four seniors who have a combined 144 career starts to their names.
Those seniors, along with sophomore Taylor Decker, led the way for 317.5 yards rushing per game, and a national-best 7.0 yards per carry. The positives of such a veteran offensive line cannot be overstated. Their footprint is large and deep. The void that they leave when their eligibility is up, however, is even deeper.
That is the position the Buckeyes are in for next season. Losing four starters isn't all that unusual, but losing four starters who have been a massively productive mainstay for this long isn't going to be easy to overcome. The process of readying next year's offensive line began this season, and takes another step this month during bowl practices.
According to center Corey Linsley, the starters are helping where they can.
“We don't really need to do a lot from a motivational standpoint, because Coach Warinner does all of the work there,” he said.
“He's grinding them day in and day out. From a teaching standpoint, it's just all about helping them out and where we see their weaknesses are. Like Billy Price needs to learn to keep his pressure on the inside of his feet and not lose his balance by keeping it all over the place, so that's one area that I'm helping him in.”
While Taylor Decker will be the lone returning starter on the offensive line in 2014, both Patrick Elflein and Jacoby Boren received considerable – and meaningful – playing time this season. Elflein played in 12 games this season, which is why he was able to step in so seamlessly for Marcus Hall against Michigan and Michigan State. Boren played in six games, but was a valuable reserve for the Buckeyes when Linsley was recovering from a foot issue.
“Jacoby, Pat and Taylor are definitely the ones who have progressed the most, and they're doing a heck of a job leading off the field and with intangibles,” Linsley said.
Photo by Dan Harker
With that base for next year, the question then becomes who will join them in the starting lineup. Even though he sees this group every day, Linsley isn't sure.
“To be honest with you, the only people that I think that I would predict [as starters], and again there's no sure starters, but the only people that I would predict are Jacoby, Taylor and Pat,” he said.
“Again, those spots could be taken, but those are just the guys that have done the best over the past two years in my eyes. [There are also] guys like Tony Underwood – he's been hurt, and Evan Lisle, who hasn't really gotten the opportunity to showcase himself as much as some of these other guys.”
However the lineup shakes out in 2014, the most important returnee would probably be offensive line coach and co-offensive coordinator Ed Warinner, who has interviewed for the Army head coaching job. Should he return, the likelihood of the Buckeyes overcoming any uncertainty on the offensive line would go up immeasurably.
As it stands, Linsley still likes Ohio State's chances with a foundation of Decker, Elflein and Boren.
“Those three guys have definitely made the impression that they want it the most over the past two years,” he said.
Will they be up to the task?
“Definitely,” he said. “Yeah, definitely.”
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